Men called to partner with women in driving societal change

Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, has called on all men to partner with women in solidarity as the country tackles the many health and social challenges facing humanity. Mkhize made the call during the second biennial Men’s Parliament hosted by the Parliament of South Africa recently.

The Men’s Parliament is endorsed by the Department of Social Development, in partnership with the South African National Aids Council (SANAC) and the Men’s Sector. Mkhize said that too often, men are seen at odds with women, and “this is what causes women to believe that men are at war with them”.

“This we have to resolve, as men can never live alone on this earth. We must foster continuous harmonious relations with women and bring an end to gender-based violence (GBV). The reforms we yearn for will begin with the conscious actions of every man in this room. Each one of us can be a champion of change. It is truly in our hands, as men, to be the change we want to see,” Mkhize said.

As the country prepares for the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children, Mkhize said it is incumbent to remind the nation of the sheer magnitude of the burden of GBV and femicide (GBVF) in the country.

“Goal 4 of the current National Strategic Plan (NSP) for HIV, TB and STIs for the period 2017 to 2022 identifies gender-based violence as one of the social and structural drivers of the HIV pandemic. Indeed, gender-based violence exerts enormous pressure on the health care system,” said the Minister.

He said one of the issues that came into sharp focus during the COVID-19 pandemic was the direct relationship between alcohol consumption and societal harms, such as trauma and GBV. He also welcomed the Men Championing Change Programme of Action, and pledged his department’s support and commitment to facilitate the process where necessary.

The Men Championing Change Programme of Action for the period 2020 to 2022 is an initiative targeting 90-90-90 cascades for men at district level. The 90-90-90 concept, which was introduced by the United Nations programme for HIV/AIDS, envisions that by the year 2020, 90% of all people who are infected with HIV will be diagnosed, and that 90% of those that are diagnosed will be on antiretroviral treatment, and that out of these, 90% will be virally suppressed.

The chairperson of the National Men’s Parliament, Mr Ntando Yola called on men, in partnership with government, specifically the Department of Social Development and Men Championing Change Programme, to address the social and structural drivers that result in the high rate of HIV, TB and STIs in South Africa.

“We should be party to championing change that will end all forms of violence against women and children in this country. We believe that in unity, a multi-sectoral response to address the issues we face as society today is what will strengthen the course of ending GBV. We want to emerge out of this sitting with a renewed conviction that the men’s movement can and should continue to facilitate dialogue towards positive social change. Through the Men’s Parliament, we will ensure mainstreaming, co-ordination and implementation of coherent men’s sector activities, through the Men Championing Change Programme,” Yola said.

The founder of International Men’s Day, Dr Jerome Teelucksingh, said he started Men’s Day because he wanted to change the narrative and discourse about men. Teelucksingh said there are invincible men, who are doing good work in the home, communities and schools.

“We have many invisible men who are doing good work, volunteer work and social work in orphanages, but these men remain unrecognised. I want to acknowledge the millions of men who remain invisible, and are doing good work, and understand and appreciate the importance of the family unit. I want us to find ways to bring down barriers that separate men and women, religious discrimination, poverty and unemployment. These are some of the barriers that we must try to get rid of,” said Teelucksingh.

“What we have been embarking on at the International Men’s Day is a global non-violent revolution. We want to seek solutions and answers, and many of the answers lie within our nation. Men’s Day heals emotional scars, seeks solutions and heal minds, and promotes positive male role models,” he added.

The two-day National Men’s Parliament, which is convened under the banner of the Takuwani Riime Men’s Movement, is observed under the theme ‘Institutionalising a Responsive Men’s Movement’. –

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